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Shareholder Activism: Trends in Climate Change Litigation, Part 4

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By Matthew G. Lawson

 

In the fourth installment of the Corporate Environmental Lawyer's discussion of emerging trends in Climate Change Litigation, we are highlighting the growing trend of Climate Change Shareholder Activism.  While not active litigation, pressure from activist shareholders who wish to influence the environmental policy of public companies is another powerful force in the climate change litigation arena.  

One notable example of this activism is the investor group Climate Action 100+.  Climate Action 100+ is an investor organization consisting of over 300 institution investors who collectively manage more than $33 trillion in assets of some of the largest carbon emitting companies in the world.  The organization’s stated objective is to “engag[e] companies on improving governance, curbing emissions and strengthening climate-related financial disclosures.” 

While the organization was recently formed in 2017, Climate Action 100+ has already secured several victories in its attempt to influence public companies in carbon intensive industries.  

  • In late 2018, following negotiations with Climate Action 100+, Royal Dutch Shell announced new short-term carbon emission reduction goals in order to ensure the company stays in step with the global emissions goals set out in the Paris Accords.  Shell has agreed to reduce its net emissions around 20% by 2035 and around 50% by 2015.
  • In February 2019, Australia’s largest coal miner, Glencore, succumbed to shareholder pressure mounted by Climate Action 100+ and agreed to freeze its coal production at current levels.  The company further announced it would take steps to increase disclosure of its emissions and environmental impacts.